It is understandable that the current GOP nomination race is focusing heavily on the economy. The U.S., and the world more broadly is facing an economic situation that has not been rivaled in severity for decades. For many voters in November there is only on issue that will determine their vote, the state of the economy. If you were better off in 2008 than you are in November 2012, it is good news for the Republicans. Yet it is important to remember that events have taken place across the globe during Obama’s presidency that will have a longer and more influential effect on global politics than the economic crisis of 2008. How a Republican president will deal with the after effects of the Arab Spring, a potentially nuclear Iran, an economically crippled Europe, a rising Asia, and a developing Africa, are all relevant and need to be considered by anyone who wishes to exercise their right to vote in November. Yet Republican candidates are not discussing in anything approaching enough detail their foreign policy proposals.
The foreign policy issue that has been dominating the news recently is the nuclear ambitions of Iran. On Wednesday it was announced that Iran has developed its first domestically-made nuclear fuel. This announcement comes a day after an American carrier moved into the Strait of Hormuz. There have also recently been assassination attempts on Israeli diplomats in Thailand, India, and Georgia. All of these events have escalated tensions in what were already strained relationships.
The response from the GOP candidate field has been disappointing and vague. Romney and Santorum stand out in the field as the neoconservative candidates. Yet specific plans have not been laid out. Should the U.S. put military forces on the ground in Iran or only act to assist Israel in defensive action? Would economic concerns alone be justification for war? If war breaks out, is nation-building part of on the table along with military victory? All of these questions and many others need to be put to the Republican candidate field. It is not enough to say, “I will not let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon." Indeed even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the non-interventionist in the group, needs to expand on what a Paul administration would do in order to have a functioning diplomatic relationship with Iran.
On Europe, the Republican field is worryingly vague. Europe contains America’s closest political allies, and is in the middle of a serious economic crisis. Throughout this election season the Republican field has only mentioned Europe as an example of what America might look like it is continues borrowing too much money. That might well be true, but a European foreign policy has to examine how the U.S. will deal with the potential rise of the authoritarian right and the socialist left. NATO will remain a crucial alliance in the coming years, yet it has remained largely absent from many of the Republican’s foreign policy discussions.
Obama recently passed the 50% approval mark. This, on top of encouraging employment figures would please the president without the dysfunctional and ambiguous Republican field. Despite expectations Obama has been a president who has actively engaged with the rest of world with a foreign policy that despite its faults appears to have been the subject of at least some consideration. At the moment the Republicans do not look ready to follow suit.